CHART: A Timeline Of The Boy Scouts’ History Of Discrimination—Plus A Few Items They Forgot

In the wake of yesterday’s news that the Boy Scouts of America was keeping its ban on gay scouts and leaders, GLAAD whipped up the handy graphic below to remind us all of their long history of discrimination.

One of those markers is about Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who was axed as a troop leader for being a lesbian earlier this year. (Today, Tyrrell is delivering more than 300,000 signatures calling on the ban to be lifted to BSA headquarters in Dallas.)

If we were better at Photoshop, we’d squeeze in some more historical notes:

*1910: The original Boy Scout manual encouraged members to be loyal to employers and refrain from joining labor unions.

* 1910-late 1940s: Though founder W.D. Boyce insisted the organization not bar African-Americans, the Boy Scouts allowed districts to segregate by race with “colored troops” well into the 1940s.

* 1920s-1980s Boy Scout leaders covered up more than 5,000 accusations of child molestation, including anonymous tips and signed confessions, in its so-called “perversion files.”

1939: Robert Baden-Powell, the father of the Scouting movement, noted in his diary: “Lay up all day. Read Mein Kampf. A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organisation etc.”

* April 10, 1997:  The ACLU of Illinois filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Chicago, challenging its operation Boy Scouts troops and programs—claiming the requirements of heterosexuality and a belief in God constituted discrimination.

We’re sure there’s tons more.


Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #boyscouts #discrimination #glaad(gayandlesbianallianceagainstdefamation) stories and more


  • Effie

    Why on earth would any self-respecting parent want their child in a proto-fascist training program? Queer parents really need to check out Spiral Scouts if they feel their child must be in a scouting program. We can do better for our children than BSA.

  • B

    Let me get this straight. An organization that has had issues with pedophiles, and most likely still does, bans a lesbian from supervising boys?

  • desdemona

    My husband was in the boy scouts for years, as a counselor and he was extremely well liked. He’s an extremely likable guy in every aspect of his life. The fact that the boy scouts would ban him just because he isn’t heterosexual is blatant discrimination. The part where they say the boy scouts have to be ‘morally straight’- should NOT apply to sexuality. Just because someone is hetero (straight) doesn’t mean he’s morally ‘straight’- and vice versa for homos. How many F*cked up straight people are there out there? Just being hetero doesn’t make you morally sound. Give it up and put and end to this Bull$hit policy Boy Scouts!

  • Flick

    This organization is quickly falling into irrelevancy in every way. It is hard for me to care as this org does nothing of any use whatsoever.

  • Ti

    So much for my donation to the scouts

  • Mr-DJ

    @desdemona: Couldn’t have said it better. The word “straight” in the context of the scout pledge does NOT mean “hetero”.

  • Jerry12

    Your Time Line is not worth much as far as giving a total picture of the history of the BS of A. You left out the years between 1910 and 1980 when things were very different. I was a member in the mid 1930’s in a town that was a suburb of a major US City. Our Scout Master was a known “Homosexual” i.e. – Queer; in everyday language. As a result, whenever we met in privet with the Scout Master at his apartment for Merit Badge review, or anything else, his apartment door was left open so both he and the Scout could be seen from his hallway. It was a small town,so we only had four Patrols. Three were for the “Straits”, and one for us Queers. At the age that most Scouts belonged, “Sexual” activity was very limited as we were not fully machured (sp?) It was more “Exploritory” than anything serious.

    At Summer camp,which was for the entire County, only the twenty something aged “Life Guards” wore bathing suits. Everyone else was naked. (Except on Saturday when parents were around to pick up or drop off Scouts for the next week.) Nudity was nothing to talk about.

    Gay, or any other,Sex was just not an important topic of conversation in those days.

  • Raziel Kainne

    really, bsa? your organization single-handedly provided for homocentric activities for me and my friends. where do you think many boys-gay and str8- had their first gay experiences? the bsa helped me to be gay! idiots…

  • meredith

    @Jerry12: I don’t think anyone is saying that nothing in the Boy Scouts has ever been good or positive. You could easily have troops that are completely inclusive, because it just depends on the scout leaders and the families involved.

    The timeline is solely about the discrimination, not whether or not there are or were good troops, so I’m not sure why you thought it was supposed to give an total picture of the BSA.

  • Geo

    Your timeline forgot the Mormons getting sued for trying to keep African-American kids out of leadership positions in the Boy Scouts in Utah. They were doing that up until 1974, when right before the federal lawsuit came crashing down on their heads, lo and behold, the LDS had a “revelation” that black kids could indeed hold leadership positions. Hallelujah!

    Considering how much control the LDS now has over the national BSA, I think that’s definitely worth noting on any BSA timeline.

  • Larry

    @Raziel Kainne: certainly what happened in my case…I loved being a scout but they have gone down the road of right wing america and I will not support them anymore

  • Larry

    @meredith:he is confused because he is in his 90’s…hope I am still reading queer sites at that age

  • Greg

    @Effie: “Queer” is so 1970.

  • Alli

    I just want to respond to No. 2 B – good point, but I want to make it clear that not all pedophiles are gay and not all gay people are pedophiles.

    “In recent years, antigay activists have routinely asserted that gay people are child molesters. This argument was often made in debates about the Boy Scouts of America’s policy to exclude gay scouts and scoutmasters…

    “The empirical research does not show that gay or bisexual men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children. This is not to argue that homosexual and bisexual men never molest children. But there is no scientific basis for asserting that they are more likely than heterosexual men to do so. And, as explained above, many child molesters cannot be characterized as having an adult sexual orientation at all; they are fixated on children.”

  • B

    No. 14 · Alli wrote, “I just want to respond to No. 2 B – good point, but I want to make it clear that not all pedophiles are gay and not all gay people are pedophiles.:

    Alli, we all know that, and I’ve posted the link to the U.C. Davis web page previously. If you read the article that link points to in detail, you’ll note that while women can be child abusers, it is not well documented, no doubt because it rarely occurs. But in this case, the woman in question claims to be a lesbian, which means (of course) that she is attracted to women. One might surmise that the least likely group to sexually abuse boys, ones who are at an age where they might be cub scouts, would be lesbians.

    This makes it a rather “clean” case where the usual excuses (protecting children from a fate worse than death) is so obviously nonsensical that the only remaining explanation is bigotry. It’s worth pointing out the obvious problem for that reason – they can’t use stupidity as an excuse.

  • oldgayvermonter

    It’s all about money and numbers…so if the Morbids and the Papists can’t be in control, and they threaten to quit their sponsorships and keep their money, there will never be any change in policy. Anyone believing otherwise is from la-la land. On another part of their nastiness, anyone remember the grandmother in Connecticut who was a troop leader and who was forced out because “boys needed a male role model”? I think they finally let her hold the Scoutmaster job without the title, but I may not be remembering correctly. So much for their caring about the ghetto boys of Bridgeport…they demanded a man (straight, of course) or “no troop for you”!

Comments are closed.